Setting up a cooperation project is a high-performance sport

Up2Europe European project is an extreme sport challenge

  By Nuno Vas Silva

Key aspects to consider when building a cooperation project. Part 4 (while writing)

You are there in front of this highly codified application form.

You have a limited number of words to say everything you have to say convincingly. You have a non-negotiable deadline to respect. It is better if you get to this point having anticipated a series of possible problems and focused on delivering the best proposal. Everyone develops their own strategy to do this. To me, writing a project proposal is an exercise which combine linguistics, logic and psychoanalysis. It makes you search for internal and external coherence.

Here are my tips and arguments on the subject: 


1.Read the application form thoroughly 

This may sound condescending, but it is a major first step. It is all about identifying the key aspects that the evaluation will focus on, which sections, which aspects of the application are central to score most of the points when evaluators go through it. 


2. Get your partner(s) involved (or demand to be involved yourself) in developing the proposal 

For many reasons, all of which are self-explanatory: to share the workload, to engage (or be engaged with) your partners from the beginning, to bring a set of fresh eyes to proofread the proposal, etc. 


3. Define an effective evaluation strategy (of implementation and results) 

The most important question you should ask when preparing a project is “by the end of this, what will have changed?” and the second is “how can I measure that achievement?” Considering how you will evaluate what you want to do before even starting helps you identify flaws and think about corrections and improvements you have not yet considered


4. Work your style 

  • – Speak the language of the programme/funding 

  • – Shape the explanation of the idea to the conditions, objectives and interests of the programme/funding 

  • – Be objective and punchy

  • – Show ambition and realism


5. Distinguish your projects (and yourself) from others 

Evaluation is a matter of comparison between what you are proposing and what was asked in the call for proposals, but also between your project and other people’s. 


6. Define realistic prices (considering the energy you are supposed to put in and adapt the overall costs to what is stated in an application form) 

The people evaluating your proposal have a fairly reasonable notion of the cost and resources you need to implement your proposal. EU funding for projects is supposed to help you develop actions that would be difficult to realise with your annual budget. It is useless to negotiate funding when the purpose of a call is not to finance your structure’s regular operations. 

Once you have written your proposal, put some time aside before submitting it to: 


7. Request other people’s advice 

Turn to people you trust sufficiently who are not involved in the project – but not completely unaware of what you are dealing with – to test the point of the idea and check if what you are explaining is understandable, all the while gathering useful recommendations. 


Some extra tips: 

Programmes and funds are not the most flexible of creatures you can come across: don’t forget foolish things than can cost you your project. 

– Signatures 

Collect all the signatures of people who are entitled to engage the institution in a project. If needed, prepare the legal documents which testify their power to sign. 

– Respect the submission procedures 

Using the specific online tool on time (if their website freezes, it’s your problem) or the postal service (not all calls are 100% online), collecting all the evidence that you have made on time (screenshots, postal receipts, photos of stamps, etc.). 

– Pay attention to the specific formal aspects of each programme/fund/call 

Stamps, signatures, online or hard copy, logos etc. 

– Inform and stay informed about any change to the plans 


And remember: a project proposal is not a question of manipulating or making enormous concessions; it is more about seeking compromises (within your ideas, your partners’ ideas or the programme’s conditions and objectives).